Special Collections: Bigelow

On display from August - September, 2013

Schaffer Library’s Remembered First Citizen exhibit honored John Bigelow (Union College Class of 1835). Part of a larger project at Union College celebrating the accomplishments one of its most distinguished alumni, the exhibit took its name in tribute – but also in answer – to Margaret Clapp’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Bigelow, Forgotten First Citizen (1947). 

“First Citizen of New York” was just one of the honorary titles by which Bigelow was known during his lifetime.  Author, abolitionist, newspaper editor, minister to France during the U.S, Civil War, co-founder of the New York Public Library, and life-long public servant, Bigelow played a significant role in the political and intellectual life of the nation throughout most of his 94 years. 

The exhibit opened on the centennial of Bigelow’s death in December 1911.  It examined highlights of his interests, activities, and connections using original objects from Schaffer Library’s extensive John Bigelow collections and correspondence file, supplemented by other materials and facsimiles from the College archives and the library’s rare book and general collections.  Released in conjunction with the exhibit was the library’s Correspondence of John Bigelow site at schaffer.union.edu/bigelow